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Books between the Covers – The Rainbow, Women in Love and Lady Chatterley’s Lover.

Elise Brault-Dreux

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  • 1 This is what Bertrand Abraham refers to as “projection-anticipation”: when he deals with the introd (...)

1In “The Bad Side of Books” (1924) D.H. Lawrence declares: “What do I care for first or last editions? I have never read one of my published works. To me, no book has a date, no book has a binding” (IR 75). This annoyance is also revealed in the analysis of the characters’ relation to books in his three novels, The Rainbow, Women in Love and Lady Chatterley’s Lover. The purpose of this essay is to draw attention to the representation of published books in these texts which are in the process of becoming published books.1 Throughout, the word “book” will refer to the secularized book in an age of democratized reading and increasing literacy "which was the resultant of many forces, most of which – political, religious, economic, technological” (Altick 3). Forster’s Education Act in 1870, the introduction of English literature in elementary schools in 1876 and many other such educational advances tremendously boosted the literacy level in the country at the turn of the century. The historians of the book unanimously list the following elements as the origin of the spread of books: an increased amount of leisure time, gas and electricity in homes, the expansion of the railway networks – reading became one of the most common ways to pass a journey. The industrialization of book production, which significantly lowered the cost of the object, also facilitated the introduction of books in households. Richard Altick remarks that “hardly a family in Britain was without its little shelf of books” (Altick 5) – though, David Vincent insists that there is a distinction, especially back then, between people owning and reading books (Vincent 212).

2In The Rainbow, the evolution of the attention given to books across the three generations actually subtly conveys this expanding social phenomenon. As for the other two novels, they are clearly set at a time when books have become available to the majority of people.

3Lawrence, a passionate writer who wrote and published books throughout his life, and who could make money writing (and happened to express a concern for that), tends to represent books as mere material objects. In his essay “The Novel,” where he draws a list of quick and dead things, books are among the dead: “there are several books, whose mere corpus is dead, utterly dead and non-existent” (STH 183). Their materiality is worthless. Only the text is quick with life. This distinction between text and book, which he insists on in “Why the Novel Matters” saying that “books are not life,” only the novel lives (STH 195), actually leads Lawrence away from metatextual effects. His depiction of readers more accurately partakes of an “effet de réel” which is not suspended by self-referential effects. What he addresses through the mise-en-abyme is rather the status and function of the book in context. And what comes forth in his three novels is a subversion of the commonly accepted positive functions of the book. Lawrence, the author of many books, tends to introduce closed – or covered – books, sometimes as obstacles or interrupting agents, and even books perverted by merchandizing or egoistic purposes.

Books are Covers

4On a few occasions, Lawrence introduces real books in his fiction. In The Rainbow, for instance, Skrebensky buys a copy of Wuthering Heights for Ursula (R 295); Maggie Schofield “began to read Coleridge’s Christabel” (R 415) and in Women in Love, the contessa reads Turgenev’s Fathers and Sons (WL 86-7). When the title of the book is thus given to the real reader, the latter furtively moves away from the fiction (s)he is reading, and is reconnected to the extratextual reality in which these books have been published. In that sense their presence in Lawrence’s fiction inscribes the latter in reality: they partake of an “effet de réel” and are “meeting points” (Gleize 18) between Lawrence’s fiction and the real world. Clifford’s reading Proust (LCL 194), for instance, is a meaningful “meeting point” where Lawrence strategically relies on the reader’s knowledge of Lawrence’s own critical apprehension of Proust (published in 1923 in “The Future of the Novel”) in order to create, with Clifford, the image of a pedantic, narcissistic and too modern reader. The cover of the book is then used as a reflection of Clifford’s personality, but also as a refracting agent, in fiction, of Lawrence’s extratextual critical position regarding Proust’s writing.

5In The Rainbow, Lawrence creates a sort of fake “effet de réel” when he gives the title of Baron Skrebensky’s book: “The History of the Parish of Briswell, by Rudolph, Baron Skrebensky, Vicar of Briswell” (R 197). This book title was imagined by Lawrence. It has no extratextual reality, no page, no sign in it and will remain forever unwritten. It is reduced to a fictional cover.

6When one reads that Ursula “lay hidden with her book in the hay-loft” (R 306), or that, for instance, Gerald and Birkin fight surrounded by “walls of old brown books” (WL 270) or that Gudrun “fluttered the leaves of books” (WL 465), the word “book” is neutral on the paradigmatic axis, it is a notion. When a book is introduced just with the word “book,” the real reader is likely to see only a blank cover. (S)he has no access to what lies inside, to the pages where there is actually no text, no sign, for there is no page at all. In such situations, the book is a mere element of the fictional décor, a mere cover for an inexistent signified (or referent).

7The real reader’s eyes will therefore often stop on the cover of the book mentioned, be it real or not. Such a superficial approach is reflected on the fictional level, when some characters do not go further than the book cover or even use books as covers.

8At the end of The Rainbow, when Ursula goes to college, books partake of a pretentious body-language: “it was so lovely to pass along the corridor with one’s books in one’s hands” (R 430) or “students [are] going down the steps with books under their arms, talking, all talking” (R 441). The adjective “lovely” and the insistence on “talking” betray Lawrence’s irony targeted at the social performance in which books are essential accessories for the parading students.

9Such pretentious use of books is more blatant earlier in The Rainbow when Tom’s curiosity is aroused when he learns that his brother (Alfred) has a mistress, Mrs. Forbes, who, we are told, is “an educated woman” (R 89). When Tom pays a visit to Mrs. Forbes, he is impressed by her book collection:

She took him into a drawing-room, full of books, with a piano and violin stand […] the atmosphere seemed open and spacious, like a mountain-top to him.
"Does my brother like reading?" he asked.
"Some things. He has been reading Herbert Spencer. And
we read Browning sometimes."
Brangwen was full of admiration, deep thrilling, almost reverential admiration. He looked at her with lit-up eyes when she said "
we read." (R 90, my emphases).

10That it is a fake sophistication is unperceived by the intimidated Tom who becomes the target of dramatic irony (all the more so since Tom, we learn at the beginning of the novel, sees books as “enemies”). The deflationary effect of the excessive use of “full” suggests a room stuffed with too many books. The social pretence pertaining to the ownership of books is doubled by Mrs. Forbes’ verbal pretence. The grammatical object of her “we read” disappears in the second occurrence (when it is repeated by the narrative voice), and the stress is then on the act of reading (in the sense of acting) and not on what is read. Reading here appears as an exclusive social act. Tom assimilates this sense of exclusion and when he goes back home he laments: “He could neither read Browning nor Herbert Spencer, nor have access to such a room as Mrs. Forbes’s” (R 9). The superficial approach to the possession of books is again conveyed in the use of the word “room,” where one should have expected “knowledge,” “culture” or “education.” But very soon, Tom’s excitement and admiration abate as he becomes aware that “there was something about her and her place that he did not like, something cold, something alien” (R 91). This moment of awareness lays new emphasis on Mrs. Forbes’s artificial relation to her closed books, arranged on the shelves, props for social performance.

11In “Breadalby,” it is the little Contessa who is literally performing the act of reading. While “Hermione took up her embroidery, the little Contessa took a book” (WL 84): reading is a mechanical gesture on a level with Hermione’s embroidery. The Contessa is “lifting her head for a moment from her book” (WL 84) to see Hermione’s brother arrive, and she is again “lifting her face for a moment from her book” (WL 86) to listen to Hermione and Birkin. This automatic gesture is interrupted when she realizes, almost surprised, that she is actually reading: “ ‘There is a most beautiful thing in my book,’ suddenly piped the little Italian woman.” She then comments on the awkward translation of a sentence.

“What is the book?” asked Alexander, promptly.
Fathers and Sons, by Turgenev,” said the little foreigner, pronouncing every syllable distinctly. She looked at the cover, to verify herself. (WL 86-7)

  • 2 1L 178 ; 2L 182 ; 3L 41, 45.

12She betrays herself when she reveals she is not even truly aware of what she is reading: she needs to “verify.” And the fact that she is reading Turgenev comes as no surprise, as Lawrence repeated on several occasions in his letters that he did not like the Russian author.2

13The book also has a peculiar social meaning when Ursula, in The Rainbow, leaves her school-mistress position. During a little ceremony Mr. Harby gives her two books – “a volume of Swinburne’s poetry and a volume of Meredith’s” (R 423):

“Oh I shall love them,” she said. “Thank you very much – thank you all so much – it is so – ”
She stuttered to an end, and very red, turned the leaves of the books eagerly, pretending to be taking the first pleasure, but really seeing nothing.
Mr. Harby’s eyes were twinkling […]. It was pleasing to him to make Ursula the gift […]. Ursula felt very confused. She hugged her books, loving them. (
R 423)

14Both Ursula (who is pretending she is reading) and Mr. Harby reduce the books to items of a social ritual. These books could be hollow, it would make no difference. They stand for something else. They are emotional signs disconnected from what they contain. This is verified in the use of the word “token”: “They were tokens to her, representing the fruit and trophies of her two years” (R 424). At that point, all references to the contents of the books have been abandoned. To Ursula, the only meaningful content is the hand-written message on a page: "To Ursula Brangwen, with best wishes for her future, and in warm memory of the time she spent in St Philip’s school"(R 424-5). The book is a pretext for a social exchange which implies emotions that, significantly enough, must remain covered.

  • 3 Man is a thought-adventurer. He has thought his way down the far ages. He used to think in little (...)

15Books thus represented as objects reduced to covers (of various natures) are fictional illustrations of what Lawrence condemns in his essay “Book” where he explains that the apparition of book-covers destroyed the authenticity and sincerity of the text.3 To him, a closed book is an opportunity given to the author to lie, unlike the hieroglyphs which leave the text open, in touch with the sun and the elements.

16In his fiction, Lawrence somehow exploits this aspect of the book as an object related to closure and enclosure, and books themselves sometimes happen to be diverting or interrupting agents in or of the plot.

Books as obstacles or interrupting agents.

17In Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Connie’s secret relationship with Mellors is ultimately disclosed when Mellors’s wife finds one of Connie’s books at his place. The book is a real one whose title is My Autobiography by the actress Julie Bernat. “[…] she broke into the hut, and found one of your books, an autobiography of the actress Judith with your name, Constance Stewart Reid, on the front page” (LCL 269). Here the book is revealing something not by its nature but because it belongs to someone: it is Connie’s handwritten name on the front page which reveals the truth. Her book acts as an interrupting agent as it precipitates the whole novel to its end and leads the external reader to close his / her book.

18Such an interrupting process is more striking when the book, commonly apprehended as a key element in education, cuts the learning course short. At the beginning of The Rainbow, the cause of Tom Brangwen’s problematic education is his hatred of books which, for him, partake of a constraining process of forced education. Even the physical posture imposed by reading is unbearable: “When he got to school, he made a violent struggle against his physical inability to study. He sat gripped, making himself pale and ghastly in his effort to concentrate on the book” (R 16). The use of the singular form (“the book”) makes “book” sound like the epitome of the constraining power. But, in spite of this, the narrator insists that Tom nonetheless has a form of passion for literature, only when it is read aloud to him:

He sat betrayed with emotion when the teacher of literature read, in a moving fashion, Tennyson’s Ulysses, or Shelley’s Ode to the West Wind. […] But when, almost secretly and shamefully, he came to take the book himself, and began the words ‘Oh wild west wind, thou breath of autumn’s being,’ the very fact of the print caused a prickly sensation of repulsion to go over his skin, the blood came to his face, the heart filled with a bursting passion of rage and incompetence […]. And he hated books as if they were his enemies. He hated them worse than ever he hated any person. (R 16, my emphases)

19While the dematerialized texts transport him, the physical contact with the repulsive materiality of the books cancels Tom’s ecstatic reactions and annihilates the emotions conveyed by the literary voice. Books are too factual. They violently interrupt any potential educational ambition. And though he is later in awe before Mrs. Forbes’ library, as we saw, he eventually finds her and her room “cold” and “alien.”

20Later in the novel, this idea of the book as an obstacle to education is even more radical, when it is used by Ursula in her classroom as an object used to interrupt the lesson. Just after violently caning a pupil for the first time, Ursula uses reading as punishment. She orders them to take their “history reader”:

"Take page 125, and read that chapter," said Ursula.
There was a click of many books opened. The children found the page, and bent their heads obediently to read. And they read, mechanically. (
R 399)

21Ursula’s intention is to divert the pupils’ attention from her intense unease. Reading, then, is disconnected from positive learning, and it punitively interrupts the daily routine. Books are lifeless burdens imposed on pupils and reading is reduced to a mechanical activity: the “click” suggests that books are to be merely opened and closed.

22Lawrence’s Rousseauist intention to suggest that children’s education is curbed when they are forced to read books is coupled with his inclination to depict adult characters who likewise get nothing from reading. In The Rainbow, Fred reads when Tom Brangwen (his father) is found dead: “At last he shut his book, his mind was blank, he walked upstairs intoxicated with depression[…]” (R 244). In Women in Love, Gerald “liked reading books […]. His mind was very active. But it was like a bubble floating in the darkness” (WL 232). In “Snowed-Up,” both Gudrun and Gerald utilize books to divert their mind from their obsessive relationship. Gudrun’s interior monologue imparts her acute awareness of the meaninglessness of her use of books: “In vain she fluttered the leaves of books […]. She knew she was not really reading.” (WL 465). Simultaneously, Gerald reads:

He had all his life been in terror of the nights that should come […].
So he sat for hours in bed, like a statue, reading. His mind, hard and acute, read on rapidly,
his body understood nothing. In a state of rigid unconsciousness, he read on through the night, till morning, when, weary and disgusted in spirit, disgusted most of all with himself, he slept for two hours. (WL 467, my emphasis)

23In these four scenes, the book is resorted to when the reader goes through a critical phase of depression. Reading is an aborted process, at times static, at times a sort of screen used to divert its reader from immediate reality. Roger Chartier says that “reading is not only an abstract operation of the intellect: it puts the body into play and is inscribed within a particular space, in a relation to the self or to others” (Chartier 50). Here, on the other hand, the fictional reader is each time isolated from the others and, instead of bringing together the reader’s body and mind, reading fragments the reader. For not only in the act of reading does Gerald’s mind bubble, but, more significantly, “his body understood nothing.” This lack of physical commitment disconnects Gerald from the text he is reading (and about which we have no information). When it does not involve the body, reading, in a very Lawrencian way, is worthless. When books are used to divert only the mind, they erect obstacles between the reader and the fruitful experience possibly derived from the text. The reader is left blank, disgusted, paralyzed.

24In the midst of these problematic relations to reading, where the book is presented as a mere cover or an obstacle, Will Brangwen in The Rainbow stands out. Unlike the other books, his contain illuminations and pictorial representations of cathedrals. Will is “absorbed” each time he opens one of his books. But to describe Will’s activity, Lawrence invariably uses the verb “look.” Will is no reader. No mental linear delineation of texts is involved. The sensory contact with the opened book is strikingly immediate. During one of the recurrent moments of tension between Will and Anna:

He retired into the parlour […]. Then he went to the bookshelf and took down books to look at, that she had scarcely glanced over. He sat absorbed over a book on the illuminations in old missals, and then over a book on paintings in churches: Italian, English, French and German. (R 160, my emphases)

25A little later: “He turned the leaves in absorption, absorbed in looking, not thinking” (R 161). After still another moment of tension with Anna, he goes to Nottingham:

He turned to a bookshop and found a book on Bamberg Cathedral. Here was a discovery! Here was something for him! He went to a quiet restaurant to look at his treasure. […]. The book lay in his hands like a doorway. […] It was ten o’clock as he was mounting the hill to Cossethay, carrying his limp book on Bamberg Cathedral. (R 164-5, my emphases)

26The sensory contact with the book is strikingly immediate: the paintings and illuminations stand out and his whole physical and emotional self is committed. If, when the book is closed, it is “limp,” when it is open it is a “doorway” which brings closer to the viewer what is remote.

27Will’s enthusiasm is clearly echoed by that of Birkin in Women in Love when he is copying the Chinese drawing of geese. He tells Hermione: “One gets more of China, copying this picture, than reading all the books” (WL 89). This hyperbolic remark gives precedence to pictorial mimesis over the written thing. So, if Will Brangwen’s relation to books is, untypically here, positively rendered, Lawrence’s purpose is to show that books should not be too intellectually and mentally deciphered.

28The study of the presence of books in Lawrence’s three novels has so far shown that the author does not work at promoting their value: they are objects, very often ill-employed and ill-apprehended by the characters. Yet, he makes use of his fiction to stage characters who do promote the social and economic value of books.

Modern Books and Perversion: The Function of the Book.

29In Lawrence’s three novels, a few readers exploit books with a specific purpose. In The Rainbow, Tom Brangwen (the son), who has studied engineering and works as a “colliery manager” (R 348) in an ugly mining region, possesses a library

with one end devoted to his science. It was a handsome room, appointed as a laboratory and reading room, but giving the same sense of hard, mechanical activity, activity mechanical yet inchoate, and looking out on the hideous abstraction of the town [...] (R 346, my emphasis)

  • 4 As Alberto Manguel reminds us, in libraries, “reason (if not art) rules over the cacophonous arrang (...)

30Tom’s rational approach to books is suggested, firstly by way of the mechanically chiasmic introduction of reading as a “mechanical activity,” which metatextually leads to our mechanical reading, and secondly through the description of this “handsome” library as a laboratory, isolated by shelves of books from the gruesome surroundings.4 His organized library epitomizes order in the midst of “the rigid, amorphous confusion of Wiggiston” (R 349), and it is in keeping with his subdued project of a pseudo-scientific organization of society. His library reflects his perverted sense of unflinching superiority and his will to manage the mass of workers just as mechanically.

31In Lady Chatterley’s Lover, it is Clifford who reads “technical works on the coal mining industry,” “government reports,” and things “on mining and the chemistry of coal” (LCL 107). As with Tom, reading is a tool to achieve his goal of ruling over the organization of the pit. Later, he is again

reading one of the latest scientific-religious books: he […] was egoistically concerned with the future of his own ego. It was like his habit to make conversation to Connie about some book, since the conversation between them had to be made, almost chemically. (LCL 233, my emphasis)

32His reading partakes of a deviant and narcissistic desire to look for things about his own self in books. It is also utilized as a go-between to create a contact with Connie. The book then, which may be just any book, as it is introduced as “some” book, is a mere tool which serves Clifford’s perverted relationship both to his own self and to his wife. It is an ingredient of the “chemistry” which he artificially seeks to elaborate. Such use of the book is quite symptomatic of Clifford’s idea of the object as something that is to be exploited. As an author himself (and the only one along with Baron Skrebensky in the three novels), Clifford has a very high opinion of his “Chatterley’s stories,” which he nonetheless writes with the ambition of the modern failed writer:

He had taken to writing stories; curious, very personal stories about people he had known. But there was no touch, no actual contact. It was as if the whole thing took place in a vacuum. And since the field of life is largely an artificially-lighted stage today, the stories were curiously true to modern life, to the modern psychology, that is. Clifford was almost morbidly sensitive about these stories. He wanted everyone to think them good, of the best, ne plus ultra. They appeared in the most modern magazines, and were praised and blamed as usual. (LCL 16)

33His work is a fictional illustration of the modern popular novel, condemned by Lawrence in “The Future of the Novel”: his “Chatterley books” actually appear as “that smirking, rather plausible hussy, […] popular novel” (STH 151). Clifford's books, which have no existence in extratextual reality, are just as hollow in the fictional frame. Faithful to modernity, they are vacuous, ego-oriented, and inscribed in the shallow network of the “most modern magazines.” At first, Connie admires what she takes as literary talent – the proof of it being the praise he gets from the critics and the money it brings (LCL 17). She is therefore upset when her own father, who gives the real reader an external opinion on Clifford’s books, declares that “there’s nothing in it. It won’t last” (LCL 17). And as we later learn, their content is indeed based on mere gossip:

Clifford was listening for “material,” and he found it in plenty. Connie realized that his so-called genius was just this: a perspicuous talent for personal gossip, clever and apparently detached. Mrs Bolton […] would have run to dozens of volumes. (LCL 101)

  • 5 He wants to be “known as a writer, a first-class modern writer” (LCL 21).

34Both Connie and the real reader realize that Clifford’s books are so common that they could easily be written by Mrs. Bolton. Their futility is coupled with a frenetic mode of creation which Connie’s annoyed consciousness furtively renders: “When he was alone, he tap-tap-tapped on a typewriter, to infinity” (LCL 83). For Clifford, literary creation seems to be the mere mechanical transformation of some “material” into valuable books that can be bought and sold. And his concern with publicity,5 which he wittingly organizes for his own books, confirms his businesslike approach to the object:

He invited all sorts of people, critics and writers, people who would help to praise his books. And they were flattered at being asked to Wragby, and they praised […]. [D]etermined to build himself a monument of a reputation quickly, he used any handy rubble for the making. (LCL 21, my emphasis)

  • 6 Mrs. Bolton too is “thrilled by her contact with […] this author who could write books and poems, a (...)

35Clifford’s corruption of the critics’ minds works on a principle of displacement: he draws their attention to his social position but not to his texts. Likewise, lexical displacement occurs around the scope of the word “monument”: while Clifford fails to write a “monument” (another term for a substantial book), the word can only be used to define his reputation. And he actually reaches his goal in avoiding too elitist publications. Just as he draws profit from the masses in industry, he now draws profit from them in the book business. He exploits the masses not in seeking to manipulate their minds with ideas, but rather in having them buy his books. This financial success – “his last book brought him in a thousand pounds” (LCL 50) – starts a vicious circle where his “wonderful display of nothingness” (LCL 50) ironically breeds more success and more admiration. Aunt Eva, for instance, “was complacently proud of Clifford’s success. Another feather in the family cap! She didn’t care a straw about his books, but why should she?” (LCL 73).6 In such displaced admiration we can read Lawrence’s early experience as a writer who, in “The Bad Side of Books,” complains about the little attention given by his family to his early texts, while they were too amazed by the amount of money he got from the books. After the publication of The White Peacock his father who, Lawrence tells us, “struggled through half a page,” and who asks how much money Lawrence got from the publication of the book, “was dumbfounded and looked at me with shrewd eyes, as if I were a swindler. ‘Fifty pound! An’ tha’s niver done a day’s hard work in thy life.’” As for his sister, she says “You always were lucky!” His family’s apprehension of his published work was obviously completely disconnected from the value Lawrence ascribed to his own texts. He then remarks:

Somehow, it is the actual corpus and substance, the actual paper and rag volume of any of my works, that calls up these personal feelings and memories. It is the miserable tome itself which somehow delivers me to the vulgar mercies of the world. The voice inside me is mine for ever. But the beastly marketable chunk of a published volume is a bone which every dog presumes to pick with me. (IR 75-6)

While attached to the living substance of the text Lawrence thus voices his distress and magnifies Clifford’s social and financial appetite.

36Lawrence subtly opposes Mellors to Clifford, precisely on that ground. Mellors is the only character in the three novels to get books from the “circulating library” (LCL 212). Books have no monetary value, for they are not personal “belongings” – unlike those on which Connie writes her name. Mellors also seems to be the only character in the three novels for whom reading is a source of personal improvement. When he tells Connie about his past, he explains that books played a fundamental role. He says that his “first girl” “egged me on the poetry and reading: in a way, she made a man of me. I read and I thought like a house on fire, for her” (LCL 200). Reading is for him connected with passion. After explaining that the end of one of his love affairs led him to take a job as a blacksmith, he adds: “I still read books, at home […]” (LCL 201). Reading is private, as opposed to the ostentatious inclination of other Lawrencian readers, or to Clifford’s “display” of his own books. After Mellors tells the story of his past, Connie notices the books on his shelf:

There were books about bolshevist Russia, books of travel, a volume about the atom and the electron, another about the composition of the earth’s core, and the causes of earthquakes: then a few novels: then three books on India. So! He was a reader after all. (LCL 212)

  • 7 As opposed to Tom Brangwen’s scientific monomania for instance.

37The details given to the reader about these various books7 (though not precise enough to reveal if they have any extratextual real existence) mean that these “books” are not totally neutral on the paradigmatic axis and hence create an “effet de réel.” And Connie’s inner exclamation expresses a sort of sudden belief and trust in what he has been telling her. Unlike other characters, Mellors is not just “talking” about books, nor using his books as a social façade. And significantly enough, Mellors, whom we are encouraged to perceive as one of the most instinctive and sensual among the Lawrencian characters, is the only character in the three novels to be defined by Lawrence by way of the word “reader.” A “reader,” then, for Lawrence, seems to be one who does not possess books as valuable goods, and does not boast about them, but discovers their content with firing passion.

38The study of the presence of “books” in Lawrence’s three novels has shown characters who derive very little positive experience from books: books are covers, obstacles, interrupting agents or valuable objects. They are an unfulfilling force that diverts its reader (or owner) from a liberated honest mode of existence. Lawrence, who dedicated his life to writing, thus somehow urges the real reader to take the book as a mere material vehicle which is inclined to hinder the access to the real text if it is given too much attention. He seems to encourage us to get rid of the “old stable” book which, in “the age of mechanical reproduction,” can be reproduced infinitely and hence loses its textual “aura.” In his novels books are almost equated with the “personality” he fiercely condemns in a letter to Katherine Mansfield in December 1915: like “personality,” books appear as “dry leaves […] which flap in every wind” (2L 472). As with men, he wants us to forget about the leaves, and to reach beyond the cover – beyond the “personality” – and to be in touch with the inner flow of the book, which is the lively quickness of the voice of the text.

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Abraham, Bertrand. “La Représentation du livre dans les romans de Hugo.” Compte rendu de la communication au Groupe Hugo du 21 Novembre 1992. Université Paris 7 – Equipe 19ème.

Altick, Richard D. The English Common Reader – A Social History of the Mass Reading Public 1800-1900. Chicago: the University of Chicago Press, 1957.

Boulton, James T. Ed. The Letters of D.H. Lawrence. Cambridge University Press, 1979 – 1984.

Chartier, Roger. “Labourers and Voyagers” in The Book History Reader, edited by David Finkelstein and Alistair McCleery. London and NY: Routledge, 2002, 47-57.

Dugast, Jacques. « De Quelques Bibliothèques Fictives,» Interférences, n°12. Rennes : 1980.

Finkelstein, David and McCleery, Alistair. An Introduction to Book History. NY and London: Routledge, 2005.

Gleize, Joelle. Le Double Miroir – Le Livre dans les livres de Stendhal à Proust. Hachette Supérieur, 1992.

Lawrence, D.H. “Books” in Phoenix – The Posthumous Papers, [P] ed. Edward McDonald. Harmondsworth, Mddsx: Penguin books, 1980.

––––– Lady Chatterley’s Lover [LCL]. New York, London: Penguin Books, 1994.

––––– “The Bad Side of Books” in Introductions and Reviews, [IR] ed. by N.H. Reeve and John Worthen. Cambridge: CUP, 2005, 75-8.

––––– “The Future of the Novel [Surgery for the Novel – Or a Bomb]” in Study of Thomas Hardy and other Essays, ed. Bruce Steele. Cambridge: CUP, 1988.

––––– “The Novel” in Study of Thomas Hardy and other Essays, ed. Bruce Steele. Cambridge: CUP, 1988.

––––– The Rainbow [R]. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 2000.

––––– Women in Love [WL]. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 2000.

––––– “Why the Novel Matters” in Study of Thomas Hardy and other Essays, ed. Bruce Steele. Cambridge: CUP, 1988.

Leavis, Queenie Dorothy. Fiction and the Reading Public. London: Chatoo & Windus, 1965.

Manguel, Alberto. The Library at Night. London, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006.

Vincent, David. Literacy and Popular Culture, England 1750-1914. Cambridge, CUP: 1989.

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1 This is what Bertrand Abraham refers to as “projection-anticipation”: when he deals with the introduction of books in novels which are in the process of becoming books.

2 1L 178 ; 2L 182 ; 3L 41, 45.

3 Man is a thought-adventurer. He has thought his way down the far ages. He used to think in little images of wood or stone. Then in hieroglyphs on obelisks and clay rolls and papyrus. Now he thinks in books, between two covers. The worst of a book is the way it shuts up between covers. When men had to write on rocks and obelisks, it was rather difficult to lie. The daylight was too strong. But soon he took his venture into caves and secret holes and temples, where he could create his own environment and tell lies to himself. And a book is an underground hole with two lids to it. A perfect place to tell lies in.” (P 731)

4 As Alberto Manguel reminds us, in libraries, “reason (if not art) rules over the cacophonous arrangement of books” (Manguel 4).

5 He wants to be “known as a writer, a first-class modern writer” (LCL 21).

6 Mrs. Bolton too is “thrilled by her contact with […] this author who could write books and poems, and whose photograph appeared in the illustrated newspapers” (LCL 100).

7 As opposed to Tom Brangwen’s scientific monomania for instance.

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Référence électronique

Elise Brault-Dreux, « Books between the Covers – The Rainbow, Women in Love and Lady Chatterley’s Lover. », Études Lawrenciennes [En ligne], 47 | 2016, mis en ligne le 07 décembre 2016, consulté le 28 avril 2017. URL : ; DOI : 10.4000/lawrence.267

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Elise Brault-Dreux

Université de Valenciennes

Elise Brault-Dreux is a lecturer. She teaches grammar and literature at the University of Valenciennes. Her research focusses on the poetry and prose of D.H. Lawrence, the poetry of T.S. Eliot and of Katherine Mansfield. She mainly explores the questions of voices, "I", subjectivity and masks in the Modernist era. Her PhD was on "the instabilities of the poetic "I" in the poetry of Lawrence and T.S. Eliot".

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